In France on May Day it’s tradition to present a loved one with a bouquet of Lily-of-the-Valley (or ‘Muguet’ as it is called in France). To celebrate May Day and the beauty of Muguet, I’ve pulled together two reviews from the archives to showcase my favourite Lily-of-the-Valley fragrances. Both come from entirely different eras, with the first being a vintage formulation of a classic made at time where the key materials that make recreating the scent of Muguet achievable were still readily usable, whilst the other is a modern interpretation that somehow captures the cool and aloof nature of the flower. They’re both entirely different but they’re also both wonderfully beautiful. Enjoy!
Hermès’ topsy-turvy Eau des Merveilles is one of my favourite fragrances from the brand. Heck, Eau des Merveilles is one of my favourite fragrances full stop and it was the scent that got me into all things Hermès – it was my Hermès gateway drug, if you will. So you will understand that I’m a little bit protective when it comes to my Merveilles, but so is Hermès and whilst they have produced a number of flankers for this fragrance, each one has brought something new to the franchise and as with all things ‘Hermès’, each Merveilles flanker has been expertly crafted.
Eau des Merveilles exists on the horizon, where constellations meet the deep blue sea. It’s a scent of adventure and navigation, both nautical and extra-terrestrial, which as you can imagine makes for an incredibly exciting olfactory experience. For Eau des Merveilles Bleue the latest take on the Merveilles signature, Hermès’ in-house perfumer Christine Nagel has removed the scent’s head out of the stars and plunged it firmly into the shallows of the sea at dawn. Eau des Merveilles Bleue encapsulates in scent, the freshness and crispness of a new day, through the translucence of the colour blue. I’m relaxed just thinking about it.
“The wonder of Hermès is rooted in childhood, when our eyes are open to the world, and marvel at everything.
I marvelled at the pebbles, wet from the ocean; they had such a particular colour and luminosity, and I discovered on them a salty, mineral taste …”
Here we are then, at the very end of 2016. It feels, especially after the losses of George Michael, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, to name but a few, within the last week, a very bittersweet year. I say bittersweet because it’s not just the loss of the huge number of great talents this year, the likes of Bowie, Prince, Victoria Wood… (the list is endless), but also because the world seems to be a much harsher place than it did one year ago. Whatever your politics, I think we can all agree that 2017 is the year that we all need to work together to make our world a better place.
From a fragrant perspective, 2016 has actually been a pheomenal year. I’d be lying to you if I said that it was easy for me to pick out my very favourite scents of the year because I really did like a lot this year, and it feels like there certainly was a huge amount of good stuff, whether that be unique and interesting new things, or familiar styles that were executed very well. But you will be pleased to know that I was able to narrow down my choices and pick out the winners of The Candies 2016. I do need a stiff drink after all that work though…
If this is your first time attending The Candies, I shall explain how things work. Firstly, you may attend in your pyjamas and you do not need to worry about drinking too much and making a fool of yourself, in fact, such actions are encouraged. We have a number of awards to give out, each of which is split out by Mainstream and Niche, and then by gender. There are also awards for Best Top Down Design and even a Sour Candy Award, which names and shames the worst perfume of the year. This year we also have the addition of the Best Scented Product Award which celebrates the best smelly product for your body or home. It’s a full programme, so let’s get started!
The brand new fragrance from Hermès, ‘Galop d’Hermès’, is an interesting one on a number of levels. Firstly, and most importantly, it is the first fragrance for the brand by Christine Nagel since she became in-house perfumer (she previously created their Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate whilst Jean-Claude Ellena was still the nose-in-residence), but it also shows the house of Hermès firmly looking back towards their equestrian roots. Galop d’Hermès is a fragrance that many will look at to ascertain whether this new collaboration with Nagel will see their distinct house style put to bed in favour of a new one, or whether it will be maintained as part of the Hermès heritage. Galop d’Hermès is the first indicator of what is to come in the future and therefore, a very important fragrance.
Galop d’Hermès is an essay in two ingredients: leather and rose. Housed within a stirrup-shaped bottle, which is adorned with a smart leather tie, in vivid Hermès orange no less, the fragrance, presents itself as a scent that captures the very essence of the house, right from the overarching concept to the individual notes of the perfume. Leather is an integral element within the Hermès DNA, finding its way into many of their luxurious accessories, whereas rose has been a key ingredient in many of the brand’s illustrious fragrances over the years. Together these two notes are presented in a pure parfum that is undeniably Hermès but also entirely exciting and new.
“At Hermès, I discovered all the femininity of leather. I composed Galop d’Hermès like a painting with two main colours…two raw materials that are emblematic to Hermès and to perfumery: leather and rose.”
Super Scent is back, again! As you may or may not know, the idea of this series is for Basenotes, Persolaise and I to pick a perfume house and list our top five (or a few more if the house has an extensive catalogue). We are not allowed to discuss or show each other our lists before we publish and we must pick fragrances currently available and in their most recent formulations. We encourage you to share your top fives too and it’s always fascinating to see both the similarities and differences in our lists. So please do join in!
So far we’ve super scented Estée Lauder, Dior, Etat Libre d’Orange, Chanel and today, we’re taking a good old look (or should that be ‘sniff’) at the house of Hermès. No other brand says luxury quite like the big H and they have arguably created some of the most beautiful fragrances on the market, with a current collection that boasts a veritable cornucopia of styles. In recent years, the house has worked with legendary perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena, an irreverent and cerebral craftsman, who has built an entirely unique style, one of watercolours and transparency, that has now become undeniably ‘Hermès’. As Jean-Claude steps down and hands the Hermès baton over to Christine Nagel, let’s take a look at some of my personal favourites from this most iconic of French houses.
What is there to say about the career of Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena at the house of Hèrmes as it draws to an end? His work speaks for itself and through the perfumes that constitute Ellena’s body of work at Hèrmes one can detect a distinct DNA that has been carefully crafted and woven through the olfactory outputs by the man, who is arguably one of the greatest perfumers of all time. Jean-Claude Ellena has created a signature that is now undeniably ‘Hermès’. It is a complexly pieced together as a Kelly bag but as ethereal and light as a silk scarf. To put is simply, Ellena really has taken the spirit of the house of Hèrmes and bottled it.
Ellena’s work is so often referred to as fragrant watercolours and his lightness of touch has proven that perfumes need not be loud, confrontational and weird to be beautiful, they can portray light and shade in utter simplicity. This style in itself is divisive because the fragrances can so often seem imperceptibly simple or transparent, but they are, in fact, incredibly complex. It’s a testament to Ellena’s talent that he can say so much with such reserved abstraction. His work is cerebral and intelligent in a way that modern perfumery isn’t nowadays, and he has always been a refreshing voice amongst the cacophony. The man is nothing short of a genius and one of the handful of true master perfumers who have earned the title through a life’s work.
For his final piece at Hèrmes, Jean-Claude Ellena has attempted to capture the elusive lily of the valley, a flower that smells so intense, yet yields no fragrant oil usable within perfumery. The work is a construction of the flower, of course and as Ellena puts it, he wanted to “snatch the fragrance of these flowers from the dawn sky, together with that of the foliage that envelops them”, thus crafting an homage not only to white blooms but also to its accompanying greenery. The result? Well, Hermès describe it perfectly as “a shower of delicate bell-shaped flowers evoking the opalescent white of porcelain – radiant, playful, diaphanous”. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
How is it the end of 2015 already? Seriously, I feel like things were only getting started! Anyway, seeing as it is very nearly the end of the year it can only mean one thing: The Candies! That’s right, it’s now time to take a look back at 2015 to identify the good, the bad and the downright ugly perfumes of the year. As always, it has been an active year for the industry and we’ve seen some great stuff. We’ve also seen some pretty dreadful stuff as well. It will make for exciting reading, I’m sure,
This year, I’ve done a bit of tinkering around with the awards we have on offer. Most have stayed the same however, we have said goodbye to the Best Celebuscent Award because really, celebrity fragrances appear to be on the out and I honestly don’t think I’ve even reviewed one this year. We’ve also said goodbye to the Best Advertising Campaign Award which has now been replaced with the Best Top-Down Design Award, an accolade that celebrates those perfumes that get the juice, bottle and advertising spot on. Finally, I’ve also added a new award this year for Best New House, which aims to highlight the best new fragrance brand launched within the year. Other than that all is the same.
So without further ado, ladies and gentleman of the perfume loving community, please take your seats, adjust your undergarments and fix your weaves as we are about to commence The Candies 2015. We require silence within the auditorium, selfies are banned and everyone must be suitably perfumed. Them’s the rules. There will be snark, there will be gushing sentimentality and there will be more hyperbole than you can shake a stick at, so gird your loins, dear readers, and get ready for the alternative perfume awards!
Also, please be sure to head on over to Persolaise’s blog to check out his round-up of perfume in 2015.
In this new series, I put together a quarterly overview of five of my favourite fragrant subjects that have been piquing my interest over the last three months. These items can be individual perfumes, brands or houses, genres or even themes that have been taking my fancy. They can even include other books, bottles and other blogs that have been keeping me entertained. There are no rules. Well, there are three rules with this series; 1) the subjects must be linked to fragrance somehow (a rule that I’m allowed to bend); and 2) the hitlist is to be published towards the end of each quarter; and 3) the list must include my favourite things, as if I were a fragrant sort-of Oprah.
So, now we’re heading towards the end of March what’s topping my hitlist for quarter one of 2015?
Hermès have to be admired for their consistency. Since installing the inimitable Jean-Claude Ellena as their in-house perfumer (he is soon set to retire and step down from his post), the house has regularly turned out fascinating, beautiful and nature-inspired fragrances in a cohesive style. Ellena’s perfumes for Hermès are not grand dames or challenging experiments, they are landscape paintings in pastel-coloured chalks or water colours. Their transparency and weightlessness are what sets them apart from the crowd, and whilst they follow a distinct style, they never fall into the trap of being too similar. There is variety in this extensive oeuvre as well as beauty.
One of Hermès more popular collection of fragrances is the ‘Les Jardin’ series. The five fragrances from this series are designed as fragrant tales of lengthy strolls through glorious gardens in various locations around the globe. Whether they be set on a roof top in Paris or along the Nile in Egypt, these are transportive scents that fit somewhere between abstraction and reality. Their delicate and translucent style gives the impression that air from each location has simply been bottled, and as one sprays this scented oxygen, the garden comes to life right in front of their eyes (or should I say, ‘nose’).
For 2015, Hermès has launched ‘Le Jardin de Monsieur Li’. Following a visit it to China, Jean-Claude Ellena pieced together this imaginary idea of a Chinese garden, that is designed as a retreat – a contemplative place for the visitor to take solace in and seek tranquility, and peace. “We all have something in us of Mr Li” says Hermès, and we all need a safe haven to run off to when the stresses of life take hold – Le Jardin Monsieur Li is that very place, and in it one can seek both happiness and a true sense of calm.
Oooh, I do love a good scarf and now that winter is finally bedding in, it’s the perfect opportunity to step out of the house wrapped within the warm confines of many a piece of neckwear. In fact, leaving the homestead isn’t particularly necessary (nor much fun in the cold) and I have been known to float around the house, scarf wrapped around neck, simply enjoying the fabulous warmth (and aesthetic) that it brings. I am, if anything, a bit of a poser, after all.
Scarves go incredibly well with fragrance and one of my favourite things to do is sniff a well worn scarf and try to identify the many perfumes that are imbued so deeply within the fibres. The truth is that, scarves may be a fashion item, but they also make wearing fragrance more pleasurable, due to the simple fact that they retain odour, as well as almost amplifying a fragrance so that it can be smelled at numerous intervals throughout the entire today.
In this piece, I’ve picked out some of my favourite scarves and paired them with matching fragrances. These pairings identify the synergies between the textures, colours and signatures of fragrances, and neckwear, but also take a look at some fragrances that simply smell great when lavishly sprayed on any old scarf. So, if you’re looking for a nice winter warmer of a fragrance to pair with your very best winter scarf, then read on, dear reader, read on.